The Safari has got out of synch over the holidays and didn't realise it wad the 'weekend' and so time for our Winter Thrushes Survey. The rain eased a bit and we set off rather later in the morning than we've done on our previous surveys. The world and his dog were out too which didn't help matters, nor did a plethora of prowling cats. Overhead a Sparrowhawk swooped around being mobbed by a Carrion Crow until after a while it took umbrage and lashed out making a strike causing the crow to back off.
Passing through the gate on to the North Blackpool Pond Trail we soon came across the finch flock which today played host to at least nine Greenfinches along with the usual Chaffinches and Goldfinches. Plenty of Blackbirds were poking around under the trees which boded well for the rest of the walk. The first of our five Grey Squirrels was here too.
Once at our survey start position we began recording...but where had all the Blackbirds gone? All the usual spots where they hang out were devoid! We picked up odd ones here and there but nothing like previous visits. And where have all the Redwings and Fieldfares from the other day disappeared to? Eventually a different thrush to put on the survey sheet; a Mistle Thrush was heard from the tallest tree in the cemetery.
Even the still berry-laden Cotoneaster bushes/hedge on the industrial estate lacked any Blackbirds. We caught up with four together round the corner when they were flushed by yet another dog walker. he stopped to ask what we were up to - probably saw the clip board and thought some developer was waying up the place - we passed a couple of minutes while his dog charged about disturbing anything it could point its nose at - he was sort of interested in the survey but told us there were no thrushes round here; too many damned Magpies, he did like seeing the Grey Squirrels (or at least his dog did) and he once saw a Pheasant (or his dog flushed it - more than quite scarce on the NBPT). So there you have a 'random' sample of the great British public's knowledge of wildlife - like none-natives, don't like innocuous and rather beautiful natives and have no idea that Blackbirds are thrushes...probably wouldn't know a thrush if one warbled down his ear.
The rest of the survey was across the football fields and around Linden Pond where FARG had been working recently, it was now double the size and probably depth as well and the fields were more fit for water polo than footy. A couple more Blackbirds were added to the tally. The fields are backed on to by a housing estate and two of the remaining trees have various feeders put out by the residents, here a flock of 11 Goldfinches came in to feed. A little further on our route cuts between this estate and a newer posher one where a garden always has plenty of food on offer and another nine Goldfinches were taking advantage.
The hedgerow leading to the old farmhouses still has berries but was thrushless save for a single Blackbird with another on the path to the Community Orchard. here there were more Blue and Great Tits and a Robin.
In the orchard the same two Grey Squirrels we saw on the previous survey were still collecting material for their drey and the same black cat was still watching them intently.
We had a look at the landslip on the way back and noted that four large Hawthorns had slumped in to the dyke. we wouldn't be surprised if these and the two or three still standing are all removed which would be a big shame as they are extremely old.
The finch flock was still around but we now counted 12 Blackbirds under the trees.
Once off the NBPT and in to suburbia nothing else was noted as the rain came on heavy again; then we heard a Dunnock call and looking up - as that's where the sound seemed to come from rather than down where they normally are - we spotted two displaying on the ridge of a roof ! Don't think we've ever seen them that high or that exposed before!.
After downloading our results we checked the trail-cam which had been sitting in our Silver Birch tree looking at our feeder since yesterday morning. Suffice to say our birdless garden isn't that birdless after all. We set it up too close to the feeder (no indication of minimum focus distance in the instruction manual) so the pics were all just out of focus but blurry pics were obtained of Blue and Great Tits, a juvenile Greenfinch, a Blackbird and a Robin. We also saw, but the camera didn't, a Chaffinch on the lower ports of the feeder...we've now set it up again a little further from the feeder and hopefully both top and bottom feeder ports will be in view...we'll find out tomorrow afternoon. Both Woodpigeons and Collared Doves were seen visiting the spilled seed on the ground and as it started to get dark a Long Tailed Tit was heard when we went out to get some firewood for Little Bertha - did that call in at the feeder??? - All will be revealed this time tomorrow!
Where to next? Some fierce overnight winds are forecast and yet more rain but tomorrow doesn't look quite as wet as we feared so a safari to the nature reserve may well be on the cards in the morning to see if anything has been blown in.
In the meantime let us know what the great unwashed 'know' in your outback.